Chase Hughes

Quick Links

Bradley Beal and the All-NBA team: how one decision impacts the Wizards' future

beal.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Bradley Beal and the All-NBA team: how one decision impacts the Wizards' future

With the 2018-19 season in the rearview for the Washington Wizards, we at NBC Sports Washington are analyzing the five biggest questions of what should be the most consequential offseason they have had in years...

NO. 1: WILL BRADLEY BEAL QUALIFY FOR A SUPERMAX CONTRACT?

There are a handful of events this summer that could alter the course of the Wizards' franchise significantly moving forward. They will have a new general manager and possibly one from outside of the organization, someone who could prescribe wholesale changes. They have the sixth-best lottery odds and could luck into a top spot to net a future star.

But aside from winning the lottery on May 14 and landing Zion Williamson in June, nothing will have a more profound effect on the Wizards' future than the All-NBA announcement in late May. The league has not revealed a date yet, but it was May 24 last year, May 18 the year before and May 26 the year before that. Basically, by late May we will know if Bradley Beal made it for the first time in his career.

Beal has a chance for third team All-NBA and could get it if he earns more votes than guys like Kemba Walker of the Hornets, Ben Simmons of the Sixers, Devin Booker of the Suns and Klay Thompson of the Warriors. There are six spots and five essential locks: Stephen Curry of the Warriors, James Harden of the Rockets, Russell Westbrook of the Thunder, Damian Lillard of the Blazers and Kyrie Irving of the Celtics.

Some media ballots have already been released that show mixed results for Beal. Mike Singer of the Denver Post voted for Beal, while Paul Flannery of SB Nation did not

If Beal gets All-NBA honors, he will be eligible for a supermax contract. It wouldn't begin until the 2021-22 season, but it is projected to be worth $194 million over four years. His deal would start at over $40 million annually.

The Wizards already have John Wall signed to a supermax deal, which kicks in next season. He will be making $43.9 million in 2021-22. He and Beal would account for roughly three-quarters of the salary cap that season.

The Wizards could, in theory, sign Beal to a supermax and just deal with it later. They would have two full seasons before the contract begins. By then, Wall should be healthy and have at least a full year of games under his belt and maybe more if he returns next season.

But delaying the inevitable is not a sound strategy. If extending Beal backfires either as a singular move or in conjunction with Wall's deal, it could strap the franchise for many years to come. 

All of this makes a supermax offer in the event Beal becomes eligible potentially a decision so massive it could be the most important call the next GM makes in their entire tenure in Washington. And that GM may have to make that decision within months of taking the job.

There are many reasons why this situation is not simple. If Beal qualifies for the supermax, there is not a 100 percent guarantee the Wizards offer him one, given their future financial state. And even if they offer one, there is no certainty that Beal will take it. Though he has gone to extremes to say he wants to play the rest of his career in Washington, he has also left the door open for not accepting a supermax contract, with the caveat that he needs to learn more about the direction of the franchise

If either of those scenarios happen, if the Wizards do not offer the deal or Beal does not take it, that could effectively spell the end of his time in Washington. Both sides can say otherwise, but try telling fans that everything is okay if Beal turns down what could be an extra $80 million and moves one year closer to hitting free agency, or if Beal doesn't receive the offer at all and therefore is signaled that he isn't worth the money.

If Beal were eligible for a supermax and a new contract was not reached, that would almost certainly begin a saga of trade rumors that could last years. That's the way the NBA works these days and there will be no way to control the narrative.

Now, though that sounds like a worst-case scenario, it might not be for the Wizards. As long as Beal, who turns 26 in June, remains an All-Star talent and under contract, they have options. If they felt they had to trade him, they could get plenty of assets in return. It would just be a difficult and possibly ugly process to go through.

It all hinges on the All-NBA announcement. If Beal doesn't make the team, everyone moves on like nothing happened. If he does get it, everything changes for him, the Wizards and their offseason.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

Quick Links

After breakout season, Thomas Bryant wants to stay with Wizards: 'Why would I want to leave?'

thomas_bryant_usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

After breakout season, Thomas Bryant wants to stay with Wizards: 'Why would I want to leave?'

Amid a season of turmoil, Thomas Bryant was a shining light. While the Washington Wizards were defined much of the year by overpaid players whose commitment and effort level were openly questioned by their teammates, Bryant was just the opposite. Over and over again, he was lauded for his energy and enthusiasm.

While a collection of veterans fell short of expectations, Bryant played like he didn't know any better. He dashed up and down the court and celebrated small victories like rebounds, blocks and dunks with child-like joy.

It was a breakout season for Bryant, whom the Wizards plucked from the waiver wire last summer from the Los Angeles Lakers. The move at the time appeared to be insignificant, one that would probably help their G-League team more than anything. But by late November, he had worked his way into the starting lineup and never looked back.

"It feels great. It’s a step in the right direction," Bryant said of his first year in Washington. "I can’t tell you how happy I am for the improvement in just a year."

Though the Wizards' season was a disappointment overall, Bryant managed to put together quite the year for himself. He averaged 10.5 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting a league-high 68.5 percent on two-pointers. His 61.6 field goal percentage set a single-season franchise record, besting 7-foot-7 Gheorghe Muresan who finished at 60.4 percent at 1996-97.

Bryant, when informed of that record, called it "amazing" and "mind-blowing," but it was by no accident. At just 21 years old, he proved this season he can be uniquely selective with his shot.

Bryant can make shots from all over the floor, including three-point range, where he shot 33.3 percent this season, not bad for a center. He is also solid from mid-range, shooting 46.6 percent from three to 10 feet.

Where Bryant makes his biggest impact is around the rim. He has quick feet for his size and natural touch in the post. He can also finish with power.

Bryant led the Wizards with 117 dunks this season. Bradley Beal was second with 61 and only 18 players in the NBA had more. Bryant's 117 dunks were the most for a Wizards player since JaVale McGee had 155 in 2010-11.

Bryant's efficiency led to a special night this season. On Dec. 22 against the Suns, he went a perfect 14-for-14 from the field, a performance only Wilt Chamberlain has topped in NBA history.

Bryant's personality and production made him a quick favorite among his teammates and Wizards fans. He is the best young big man prospect the team has had in years.

But there is no guarantee Bryant will be in Washington long-term. He is set to hit free agency this summer and, though the Wizards can make him a restricted free agent and match his rights, he could garner significant interest from other teams.

The Wizards' current front office, led by interim GM Tommy Sheppard, would make keeping Bryant this summer a top priority, according to people familiar with their plans. But if a new GM comes in from outside of the organization, they could see things much differently.

Bryant's contract situation could also get confusing. The Wizards have his Early Bird rights and can exceed the salary cap to re-sign him, but with a limited contract. They can offer Bryant up to 105 percent of the league average salary from the 2018-19 season, which according to Larry Coon's salary cap guide is estimated to be $8.38 million. That would mean Bryant could be offered roughly up to $9.28 million annually by the Wizards.

Bryant's contract could not be for one year under this provision. It would have to be two to four years in length. 

Things could get really messy if the Wizards need to match an offer for Bryant from another team. Then he could be subject to the Gilbert Arenas provision, which is ironically named after the 2003 free agent deal Washington signed with him. That rule limits what other teams can offer Bryant in restricted free agency -- at least on the front end, as they still have the option to backload his contract. 

Tyler Johnson, now of the Phoenix Suns, is a good example of how the latter can work. In the summer of 2016, the Brooklyn Nets offered him a deal that paid $5.6 million the first year and $5.9 million the second. His third and fourth years then jumped to $19.2 million apiece. 

A backloaded contract would, on the face of it, help the Wizards in the short-term with John Wall set to make $37.8 million next season in the first year of his supermax deal despite likely missing most, if not all, of 2019-20 due to a ruptured Achilles. But the Wizards' salary cap situation could get very difficult in 2021-22, in what would be the third year of Bryant's next contract and one where his salary could spike. 

That would be the first year of Beal's next contract and Wall will be making $43.9 million. Beal will likely earn a significant raise from the max contract he is on right now and could be in line for a supermax like Wall if he makes All-NBA. So the Wizards have to keep a keen eye on 2021-22 in any decisions they make on contracts and Bryant could be affected. 

Bryant, like most players, will want to make the money he deserves. But the Wizards do have working for them the fact he proved such a good fit this season. He barely played for the Lakers last year and clearly has a good opportunity in Washington as their center of the future.

Bryant has a positive view of the organization.

"It would be great [to stay here]. I love this place. I love the Washington Wizards," he said. "I love playing with all of these guys. I love playing with Brad. I love playing with Troy [Brown Jr.], everybody. I love the coaching staff as well. Just being here. They gave me an opportunity to play. Why would I want to leave?"

The last question is one he will only be able to answer this summer, when the offers hit the table.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

Quick Links

Bobby Portis likes playing for the Wizards, but can they afford to keep him?

bobby-portis-reaction-wizards-hornets-usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Bobby Portis likes playing for the Wizards, but can they afford to keep him?

The Wizards have a large group of players set to hit free agency this summer. Perhaps none will be more expensive to keep than big man Bobby Portis.

He is only 24 years old and at 6-foot-10 he shot 39.3 percent from three this season while averaging 14.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. He has high upside as a stretch-four and could complement John Wall and Bradley Beal well long-term.

And, he's looking to get paid handsomely. Back in March, Portis said he wants "to make as much money as possible" this summer. Last fall, he turned down an extension with the Chicago Bulls worth upwards of $50 million and is seeking $16 million per year in his next deal, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Even if the Wizards clear money this summer by opting out of Jabari Parker's $20 million team option and/or by using the stretch provision to get out of Ian Mahinmi's contract one year early, they still may not have the money to bring Portis back. They have to work around Wall's $37.8 million salary in the first year of his supermax contract and will have many roster spots to fill.

There is also the uncertainty of a new voice leading their front office. If the Wizards go outside the organization for their new general manager, that could mean a lot of change to their roster.

Portis understands how the business of basketball works. He said negotiations with the Bulls went down to the final hour in October and there was belief a deal would get done before it fell through. He is looking ahead to this summer confident in the resume he has put together the past four years, whether it leads to a new contract in Washington or elsewhere.

"I love being a Wizard," he said. "I think everything is really in line with me to be here... but I don't control that. They have to want me."

Portis is represented by Priority Sports and agent Mark Bartelstein, who also has Beal, Parker and Sam Dekker as his clients. In addition to Bartelstein, Portis said he will rely on advice from his mother and one his good friends, Marcus, whom he's known since he was in the fourth grade. 

"I’m going to lean on those three people the most and just try to make a good decision," Portis said.

Portis made $2.5 million for the 2018-19 season, the final year of his rookie scale contract. He is likely to make much, much more than that next year.

That said, it is unclear if he will get the money he is reportedly seeking. An annual salary of $16 million at his position would put him in the range of some good players like Clint Capela, Derrick Favors and Jonas Valanciunas. 

If the Wizards were to keep Portis, they would likely have to do so by matching an offer from another team through restricted free agency. They have the option to do that by extending a qualifying offer by June 30. In that scenario they would have a cap hold on their books that could hamper their ability to spend money until his situation was resolved.

The Wizards will have some tough calls to make this summer on several restricted free agents; Tomas Satoransky and Thomas Bryant included. But Portis is likely to cost the most and therefore will probably have to be decided on first before anything else can be done.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: